One Single Life
What would you do if you were only given a single life in a first person shooter or a platformer? Once Master Chief or Mario died (for example), the game would be over and your copy of Halo or Super Mario Brothers is useless. That's the concept that Fresh Tone Games is bringing to Apple's app store with One Single Life. There's no driving story behind One Single Life, only that you are running. You take control of a running man, similar to the design of the Mirror's Edge iPhone app. Tap the screen once and he starts running. Tap the screen again and he performs a single, Matrix-loving jump to the next building. If you land the jump, you get to continue to the next level. However, if you fall to an untimely death, you might as well delete the app right away because you cannot try again.
The developer isn't completely cruel though. You get as many practice turns as you want previous to the start of the level. You can spend several jumps perfecting timing as well as the correct landing area before ever attempting the actual level. Practicing allows you to understand the physics engine and general speed of the runner as well. The first few levels are a breeze and I found myself burning through them quickly. However, the tension starts to build quickly as the jumps get much harder as the game progresses.
There are neat little percentages displayed before the start of each level stating the amount of people that die on said level. The game uses color well in the gameplay design too, specifically coloring the start button red as if you should mull if over before starting. Amazingly, the developer was charging for the game at the release (99 cents), but has since reduced the price to nothing. I can only imagine the deluge of negative reviews that they must have been assaulted with after people spent a dollar on something that only has a single use.
Visually, the graphics engine is excellent and the developer has a firm grasp on using shadows to create depth within the glowing city. I also liked the wind blowing the runner's tie in the wind and the grounded feel to the physics engine. Even the credits have visual flair by sending the runner jumping from cloud to cloud. My only complaint is that the Metal Gear Solid-esqe training levels seemed a bit too plain.
There's nothing more than a bit of background music as well as the running man's grunts / footsteps as he leaps to the next building. It fits the concept of the game perfectly and you grow to hate the cry of death during the training levels.
How do you review a game that can only be played once? Very carefully (as my Dad would say). One Single Life is a head scratcher for sure. On one hand, the quality of the presentation and the general flow / control of the game is top notch. On the other hand, it's a useless app once you die a single time. If you are extraordinarily good, the game will last 20 minutes, tops. If you are terrible at the game, you might be done in about 5 minutes. I got to level 8 in about 12 minutes before dying. It's really a unique concept, but it failed to impress me. While the game has been reduced from 99 cents to the much more appropriate price of free, it's still questionable if it's even worth your time. My advice would be to skip this app store experiment.